I've always wanted to have a bookstore / knitting store, and having one online is so much easier than a bricks and mortar store. However, there are pros and cons to each, and I'd like to share them in the hopes that my story can help anyone interested in opening an online bookstore in their own carefully researched niche.
Finding your carefully researched niche is important for several reasons. With the likes of Amazon and Barnes and Noble as competition, you have to carve out a very specific small piece of the online bookstore pie and serve it with whipping cream. By that I mean, you have to create a very focused smaller bookstore that offers something that bigger websites do not have – a very warm, personal touch.
The Pros of Owning an Online Bookstore
I have chosen affiliate programs as the basis of my bookstore because I do not have to deal with receiving payments, accepting credit cards, processing orders, storing inventory, taking back orders, shipping, and so on and on.
Going to work in a bricks and mortar store would mean putting together the whole package – dress, hair, makeup – with my own online store, I can do what I want, when I want, looking like I want. to go to work, my store is open 24/7/365 to customers around the world, I never meet cranky people face to face (just sometimes in emails!) and my store is private and always peaceful (no cranky kids!).
Faced with a decision between two ideas for how to run my store, I chose option # 1. I can simply fill my site with quality, relevant content pages and encourage visitors to click through to the merchant's website to purchase, or I can use a data feed to create a carbon copy of the original store on my website. I still have to write original copy, to make it unique and not be penalized as duplicate content, but I can have a huge site instantly, automatically updated. Visitors then do not need to leave my website to make their purchases.
The Cons of Owning an Online Bookstore
Of course there are always arguments against shopping online; the cons are that bookstores provide a wonderful customer experience. Maybe you like getting out to book signings, listening to authors read passage, and sitting down in a comfy chair with a stack of books to decide first-hand what you want to buy. And of course, online sites malfunction more often than stores have to unexpectedly close.
As an affiliate marketer there are some things that can make online shoppers annoyed, related and skeptical that you will not have to deal with personally, but you will have to be convincing enough to overcome their hesitation.
If your customer knows exactly what they want, no problem, but if they want to "window shop" the process can be painfully slow as they move from page to page. If they like to "scan and let something pop out at them", they can become frustrated at only being able to view what fits on one page at a time.
When it's time to pull out the plastic, they may question the security of ordering with their card online, wonder if they want to pay high shipping costs, and what happens if they need to return an order?
How I Made My Decision
Most of the cons can be compensated for or avoided by careful choosing of affiliate programs. Few online book companies simply offer books. They also offer reviews, contests, coupons, and ways to participate in what feels like a community.
Website design with care taken to make navigation clear and simple can make browsing and comparison shopping easier, and of course stores with great track records, testimonials, and security in place make all the difference with consumer confidence.
For me, love of my niche combined with love of books convinced me that I've made a great choice, and success is almost assured as my next love, writing, makes it easy to write book reviews. If this all makes sense to you, then you must probably want to try an online bookstore.